Blog Post

Digital Media: The Advantage Of The Young Adult

S. Craig Watkins is a media professor at the University of Texas-Austin. I listened to him speak about the new tools of digital media and how it has affected our society.
The most important way this has affected our society is that for the first time in recent history, the younger generations are given a powerful advantage to compete in the economy over older generations. Watkins observed that when computers/cell phones/gaming systems were introduced to families- it was more often children and teenagers who were more eager to experiment with these devices than adults. This, Watkins said, makes the young people the "technology gurus" of our society.

However, Watkins pointed out that adults are slowly beginning to use technology to their own advantage too. I remembered discussing in my Isis120S class how different age groups use Twitter. Older people use it to communicate with their children. I've seen some of my friends post Facebook statuses and their parents comment on it. My dad has a Facebook but we agreed not to friend one another. I've seen a lot of stuff on this website. http://myparentsjoinedfacebook.com/
It is a solid reminder of the consequences of having your parents be your Facebook friends- technological competence is irrelevant here.. parents can be embarrassing at times. I'm just happy neither of my parents would be this... eh... enthusiastic.

I also remembered discussing how adults have found more use for Twitter than the younger folk. Politicians and celebrities use Twitter to appeal to a wide range of people and give viewers a glimpse of their lives. I don't have a Twitter account of my own but I did look at Obama's Twitter during the 2008 election. Speaking of the 2008 election, Obama had a clear advantage in that election due to utilizing digital media well. Obama was able to campaign more to internet users while John McCain barely used modern technology at all.

Watkins also talked about another topic which has often been talked about in my seminar: education. Watkins made a strong argument for schools using computers in classrooms because that would help the young people of today learn better because that's the kind of technology they've been using outside of the classroom. Watkins compared the learners of today to the learners of 30-50 years ago.. they need very different learning environments simply because the aspects of social life have changed so much since then.

Watkins also pointed out that the source of technology which young people use the most is the mobile phone. I think this can be explained because the mobile phone offers the best of two worlds: immersion in the technology world and socializing in the real world. I recently got a Nokia Twist which gives me interent access on my cell phone. I have found this to be very advantageous because much of my professional/social life relies on the Internet- so I can do more things away from a laptop/computer just by knowing that my cell phone is there whenever I need it. It doesn't surprise me that this is the piece of technology young people and old people alike are the most comfortable using. I found this to be a very informative talk and I highly recommend it anyone.

Here's a link: http://www.ichass.illinois.edu/hastac2010/HASTAC_2010/Presentations/Entr...

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2 comments

I am a webmaster and spend a lot of time online, probably more than I would like, so while I'm familiar with many of the things to be gained from this technology literacy, I don't think the effects of digital media on young people are solely positive and advantageous.  I heard a media professor lecturing on this recently and I think what he says has some validity -- in the past, people in classes would talk to each other after class, practicing social skills with nearly complete strangers.  Now, many of them get onto their cell phones as soon as class ends, and talk to the same 3-4 friends they already know instead of networking in person with new people.  I have friends who are constantly calling or texting; if they were with the friends they're texting at any given moment, they'd be half-ignoring them and texting somebody else.  Over time this does construct a tendency to lose some of these skills that are useful in the business world, to say nothing of succeeding in everyday life.

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Although cell phones can become distractions that prevent people from personally interacting with others, they are often important tools. For example, I recently went on a club trip to Washington D.C., and cell phones were essential for us to stay together. I used it in the summer to talk to my friends who were in different states. Many students are also able to use their i-phones to find information instantaneously in order to answer questions or read breaking news. From my personal perspective, cell phones allow people to stay together.

I also found the information about parents and Facebook interesting. My dad used to say he would never get a Facebook, but he eventually joined the network. However, similiar to Philip, he did not friend me. He wants to give me digital privacy and a space to communicate with friends. However, many of my international student friends are Facebook friends with their parents. They use it as another way to "chat" and send messages to their families who live in other countries. Facebook helps them stay involved in each others' lives.

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